Photo: Lev Dolgachov/PhotoSpin
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), approximately nine million adults in the U.S. have osteoporosis and more than 48 million have low bone mass, which can lead to osteoporosis and broken bones. A disease of the skeletal system characterized by low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissue, osteoporosis leads to an increased risk of bone fractures typically in the wrist, hip, and spine, causing severe pain that may not go away.
As part of an ongoing effort to help people get the facts about medical conditions, I’d like to share some common myths about osteoporosis what you can do to prevent it and ways to encourage spine health.
Myth #1: Osteoporosis and the broken bones it can cause are part of the normal aging process.
The truth is, you’re never too old or too young to think about bone health. In fact, there is a lot you can do to protect your bones throughout your life; see Myth #2 for some healthy changes you can make today.
Myth #2: There’s nothing you can do to prevent osteoporosis.
This simply isn’t true. In order to protect your bones, it’s important to eat a well balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, eat foods that are good for bone health such as fruits and vegetables, avoid smoking, limit alcohol intake and engage in regular exercise. Exercises should focus on spine strengthening, posture, balance, and proper body alignment. In addition, it’s important to learn how to move properly in order to prevent falls and avoid serious injuries.
Myth #3: Fractures of the spine only happen with a fall or injury.
Without treatment, a person with osteoporosis is likely to have fractures, most often in the spine or hips. Fractures of the spine can happen even without a fall or an injury as the bones of the spine become so weak that they start to compress. Simply bending the wrong way can result in the fracture of a weakened spine; causing severe pain and requiring a long recovery period, which may include a loss of height and stooped posture.
Myth #4: Only women are at risk for osteoporosis.
Though osteoporosis is far less common in men than in women, men are still at risk. According to the NOF, approximately eight million women and two million men in the U.S. have osteoporosis.
But, yes, women are at a greater risk. In fact, twice as many women have bone fractures from osteoporosis as men because women are often smaller, have less bone mass to begin with, and tend to live longer. Menopause also causes bone loss to accelerate, meaning older women may lose between one third to one half of their bone mass, while men may lose between 20% and 35%.
Myth #5: People don’t get shorter.
Deterioration of bone tissue that comes with osteoporosis means some people do actually lose height and become shorter. Osteoporosis can also affect posture, causing a stooped or hunched appearance when the bones of the spine, the vertebrae, begin to break or collapse.
The NOF has launched a new campaign called Break Free from Osteoporosis to provide information that will help you learn your risk factors and make positive lifestyle changes in order to build strong bones. Visit the website at www.nof.org to learn more and find additional information including exercises for bone health and suggestions for bone healthy recipes.